Probably after Christmas, the summer season is next most expensive season for many of us. Summer offers us the opportunity to let loose, to celebrate “Moms, Dads, and grads,” and to take some much-needed time away from our normal routines for a “staycation” or vacation sprinkled (or flooded) with some indulgences. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in working hard and playing hard. Life is short, and it’s worthy of rich enjoyment. Still, if we are conscious about how we manage money throughout the year, we can celebrate life and demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
God promises bountiful blessings to all of his children who are obedient to God’s commands:
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them (Deuteronomy 28: 1-3, 12-14).”
Many of these blessings are spiritual blessings, but make no mistake—God is also referring to material abundance in this passage. Financially, God wants us to be lenders, not borrowers! The steps outlined in the previous section gave insight into how you can maximize your earning potential, no matter how much money you make. However, if you are frequently spending more than you earn, you are creating a personal financial disaster that will inevitably affect your family and friends. When you live above your means as a lifestyle, you are much less likely to build up any savings, emergency fund, retirement accounts, or other investments. Thus, when the winds of life blow, as they undoubtedly will, you will find yourself dependent upon others to bail you out. Needing a few more dollars until payday is one thing, but needing to replace a major appliance or attend a funeral of a loved one several states away is much more urgent and burdensome to request. As we have acknowledged in other sections, it is very important for us to learn the skill of interdependence. And family members and friends usually don’t mind helping you out when they can afford to do so and perceive that you are doing the best you can. However, if your own measure of negligence contributes to an emergency that becomes a crisis on their part, then you expose that relationship to the dangers of contention and mistrust.
So what exactly does taking fiscal responsibility look like? After offering an humble prayer of commitment, you will need to develop or refine your budget. Take a good, long look at your income and expenses. Have you accounted for all sources of income, including second or third jobs, alimony and child support, benefit payments, gifts, and pay from your side hustle(s)? Do you make tips or receive bonuses at certain times of the year? For purposes of this financial planning session, resist the urge to not count a certain line of income because you have it earmarked for something else. For example, your “shoe money” could be the very funds to help you get out of debt!
After you have fully assessed your income, examine and list all of your expenses. Taking a look at your bank statement, if you have a bank account, is a good place to start. However, if you’re someone who tends to spend cash often without any tracking system in place, many of your actual expenses may be hidden. Many of our major bills are easy to remember, often because they put a sizable dent into our funds: rent or mortgage payment, car note, and utilities. Don’t forget, though, that some expenses occur on a different payment cycle from most of our other bills, such as annual tax payments, bimonthly utility bills, quarterly insurance premiums, or gift expenses. Some of the most impactful expenses are the ones that sneak up on us because we don’t realize how often and how much we are spending, say, at fast food drive-thrus or at Starbucks. And although tithing may not be in vogue in the broader culture, we must ask ourselves how often we are both able and willing to honor God with our firstfruits, that is, ten percent of our earnings? The first 10% is referred to as “firstfruits” to remind us to show honor to God by trusting God with what we get first, not what is leftover in the end. If you are able to automate your tithe payments through bill pay or automatic debit right after pay day, you’ll find quickly that you don’t even miss the money. You become accustomed to living on 90%, often more efficiently than you used to live off of 100% of your income. Psychologically, tithing can provide you with an assurance of pleasing God and making a real difference in the lives touched by your church’s ministry.
Once you have calculated your income and expenses, a simple comparison between the two figures will let you know whether you have more money than month, or more month than money. If your money regularly runs out before your pay period ends, you must choose a remedy for your situation. You can either commit to increasing your income, cutting your expenses, or do a little of both.
One of the greatest drains on your budget is debt, so I’ll spend some time during my next post discussing how to eradicate debt. In the meantime, keep more in your wallet and enjoy Father’s Day celebrating the fathers/father figures that God has sent your way!
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),